Monday, 15 June 2015

Romance in Venice

Well, we just got back home late last night, after a wonderful trip to Venice and a river cruise to celebrate our forty years of marriage and we're still trying to return to normality. As always, I had a proper break from social media, apart from checking emails now and then, and I really felt the benefit of concentrating on real life and all the fabulous sights. The weather couldn't have been better - hot and sunny every single day, until the thunder and lightening storm the morning of departure which we enjoyed watching while waiting for our transport!


We had plenty of time in Venice itself at the beginning and end of the river cruise, but we also visited Padua, Farrara, Ravenna and Verona, all of which were very interesting. To do them justice, I'm only going to talk about Venice in this post and will do another blog or two about the others in different weeks. I can only give a flavour of amazing Venice without writing for ever about it so I'm illustrating it with a few of the hundreds of photos I took along the way.


Although we've stayed in Venice for almost a week in the past, and have visited two other times, there is always something new to discover and this trip provided many firsts. The company we travelled with, Uniworld, was exceptional in the way they looked after their passengers and we had the advantage of being a light load of no more than sixty. We usually do our own thing on cruises but this time everything was included - tours as well - and it proved how well worth it is to have a local Italian guide who speaks excellent English.


Our first morning began with a guided walk around Venice, through back alleys, beside small canals, and over many bridges, ending at Piazza San Marco. It allowed the guide to point out the refuse collection system in action - all done by barge, as is everything else. Refuse is left outside the homes and buildings and is collected twice a day then loaded by a neat machine onto the barge and taken away. We also kept well away from the crowds for much of the morning and discovered the intriguing stone faces with open mouth on a wall here and there which once allowed people to post a secret complaint. This would eventually find its way to the Doge. As you can imagine, my romantic imagination found a much better use for them than complaints!


Our walk ended at San Marco and we were delighted to discover the company had arranged for us to have a visit inside the Doge's Palace and a walk through the Bridge of Sighs - without joining the massive queue already forming. Although I was interested in seeing inside the palace, I was even keener to walk through the bridge of sighs as we normally only see it from the outside. You can see my photo from both views. This was where the prisoners used to walk from cell to death and the bridge evidently was given its romantic name by Lord Byron (of course) who imagined the sighs of the poor prisoners catching sight of their last view on earth through the gaps in the stonework.

 


The highlight of that first day was a unique, private viewing inside the famous Basilica in the evening. A local (English) art historian accompanied us and pointed out the important paintings and relevant history while we sat in the seats. The altar seemed quite dark but she told us to take a little quiet time to reflect and then the lights were gradually switched on to reveal the basilica in all its glory. A truly magical moment.


 

Unbelievably, we were then invited to accompany her down to the crypt where few have access. This was deliciously creepy and atmospheric and we all agreed we'd not like to get locked in! This allegedly holds part of the remains of St Mark and is a revered part of the Basilica. I was delighted when the guide said the caretaker on duty was slightly more lenient and would allow discreet photos without flash - an honour indeed. Our lovely river boat was moored about 15 minutes walk away from Piazza San Marco so we said thank you and goodbye at the end and wandered back on our own, enjoying Venice in the evening.

 

At the end of the cruise, we had our final day back in Venice, moored along the same brilliant venue, with its easy walking access to the centre. Since we were celebrating our anniversary on Saturday, we elected to go off on our own for the morning and set off immediately after breakfast. You are always advised to get lost in Venice as it's part of the fun and discovery of the best hidden parts away from crowds and this proved true.


I had remembered a wonderful little church with walls of marble from years ago but didn't know where exactly it lay, apart from being beside a canal which are plentiful in Venice! So we started wandering through the back streets and narrow alleys, over countless bridges, always going forwards where possible. Suddenly, around one corner there it stood on front of us, the Santa Maria dei Miracoli, dating from 1481 to 1489. We did get lost in the end but finally found our way back to San Marco to enjoy a special anniversary treat of coffee at the famous 18th century Florians in the square while listening to the orchestra.

 

To cap the evening off, they had a farewell masked cocktail party before dinner, so of course I didn't need an excuse to buy another Venetian mask and even Simon bought one this time! One of the pleasures of cruising on a small ship is meeting other guests from around the world and we enjoyed some good company from Australia, America, Canada and England. Simon's work colleagues had arranged for a bottle of Champagne and chocolates to be delivered to our stateroom for our anniversary and we enjoyed sharing the special Champagne toast at dinner with the Australian couple that last evening.




Now it's back to reality, although it might take a few days to adjust. Watch out for the next instalment of our Italian adventure next week!

Rosemary




21 comments:

Mary Smith said...

Sounds wonderful, Rosemary. Back to aul claes and parritch now!

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Absolutely, Mary!

Kemberlee said...

Sounds like you had a dreamy time. Thanks for sharing your experience and photos!

Joan Fleming said...

It sounds fabulous, Rosemary, and brings back memories of our trip to Venice. Lovely photos!

Angela Barton said...

Many congratulations to you and Simon. I'm sure the writer in you sent your imagination into overdrive with imagined characters, story lines and scenes. I've visited Venice twice. Once during February for the masquerade weekend, and more recently with my mother last year. February was freezing but last October was gorgeous weather. It sounds as if we did the same touristy things - all so fascinating. I'm so pleased the sun shone for you and that you had an amazing time. I look forward to your other posts...especially Verona. I've wanted to visit there for a long time. xx

Julia Thorley said...

I've got Venice on my list of places to visit, so I'm very envious. I'm sure it won't be long before it makes an appearance in your writing.

susanjanejones said...

Simply sensational, love that mask, also I enjoyed your article in the Writing Magazine this month. Lovely pictures, and Happy Anniversary.

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Thanks for commenting, Kem - it was wonderful!

Thanks, Joan - I'm sure you have your own lovely memories.

Thank you, Ange - that must have been exciting being there at masquerade and I know that's what my daughter would like to do!

You must go, Julia, as there's no where else quite like it.

Thanks, Susan - I bought a bigger mask last time so tried to get a smaller one and ended up with feathers too! Thanks for mentioning WM.

Anne Stenhouse said...

Congratulations, Rosemary. You had a great time, one can see, and the photographs are wonderful, anne stenhouse

helenafairfax.com said...

Congratulations on your anniversary, Rosemary. I'm so glad you had a great time. Your photos are wonderful. What a fabulous holiday. Great memories!

Joanna said...

I loved reading this account of your trip, Rosemary, and your pictures are stunning. It looks like the perfect way to celebrate such a special anniversary. I think the idea of getting lost in order to make your own personal discoveries is wonderful. Glad you had a fantastic time and are safely home again and looking forward to hearing about the rest of the trip too. xx

Rosemary Gemmell said...

We did indeed, Anne! All the best with the launch of Daisy's Dilemma today.

Thanks, Helena - I can never get enough of Venice!

Many thanks, Joanna - I really enjoy getting lost in Venice and it does make a difference away from the crowds!

Myra Duffy said...

Sounds fascinating,Rosemary. I'm looking forward to your next post.

Carolb said...

Sounds fantastic, Rosemary. And you and Simon obviously had a wonderful time in Venice- love the masks.

Wendy's Writing said...

Oh how envious I am. Venice is one if my favourite places. We loved the tour inside the Doges palace too - it was fascinating. Glad you had a great time.

Frances Garrood said...

A river cruise in Venice sounds just wonderful. Who did you travel with, Rosemary (the company, I mean!)? I'm so glad you had a good time.

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Thanks, Myra!

Thank you, Carol - we had a great time!

One of mine too, Wendy, thanks!

My husband booked it, Frances, as he's in travel - the cruise company chose this time was Uniworld. They have river cruises in very many different parts of the world. Would like France or the Danube next!

Jean Bull said...

Congratulations on your wedding anniversary! Venice is the perfect place for a romantic trip! I love the way it can't have changed for centuries, and all the unexpected little squares full of beautiful houses linked by little bridges over the canals. Fabulous! I'm looking forward to reading about the rest of your trip; all those places are on my list!

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Thanks, Jean - well worth visiting them all!

Maria said...

What a fabulous break you've had...I fancy that walking tour round Venice.
Congratulations on your anniversary.

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Thank you, Maria - it was indeed fabulous!